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Nigeria’s coach, Gernot Rohr was undoubtedly in good mood after he saw his new-look Super Eagles to a flying start in their FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 campaign with a 2-1 away win against Zambia at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium last October.
It was Nigeria’s first away win against the Chipolopolo after six previous visits; as well as the West Africans’ first away since November 2014, when they beat Congo 2-1 in a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Though the Super Eagles had shot to the top of their qualifying phase with three points in their kitty after their Group B rivals, Cameroon and Algeria played out a pulsating 1-1 draw in Blida, but Rohr was aware about the huge task ahead in Super Eagles’ quest for a sixth World Cup appearance, saying they are not going to leave their guard open in the race to Russia 2018.
“We are happy we won and took the three points from our match against Zambia; I believe all the games in this group will be difficult to win because all the four teams are very strong, but we are going to prepare for our next games,” stated a visibly happy Rohr amongst other issues ahead of the Day Two clash with Algeria on Saturday, 12 November 2016 at the Akwa Ibom Stadium, Uyo.
Below are the excerpts of the exclusive interview with CAFOnline.com
What do you think gave the Super Eagles the edge over the Chipolopolo of Zambia in Ndola last month?
It was a difficult match because we had high temperature, especially in the first half, but we tried to control the game. We played very well and tried to make the difference in the first period, but the second period was tough and I was really looking at my time when it was 83 minutes. It was good we gave our all right from the beginning of the game and the willingness to score right away because we showed our determination to win. That was exactly what we did in the first period and we had two goals. We knew we have plenty of work to do in the first half because when you are down with two goals at home there is the tendency that you will want to throw everything you have into the second period, which was what Zambia did in the second period. They took a lot of risk in the second period and they brought in more strikers; and they were pushing forward and it was difficult for us to play the same way as we did in the first period.
Were you happy with the performance of the defence?
I want to believe the players we had in the defence are good players. We had 26 players with about five from the local league and the only problem we have (before the match against Algeria) is that the players in local league are now on holidays and I think it might be difficult for them to have the rhythm. We still have some weeks before the match against Algeria and we have to look at what happens in the clubs; and of course we have to look at those who were injured who could not play against Zambia.
We have Leon Balogun and others like Victor Moses, Isaac Success, Odion Ighalo, who were not around; it is good to have so many solutions and not just one list with same players for all the matches.
The Algerians will come all out after drawing 1-1 with Cameroon at home, what are you expecting?
I believe all the games in this group would be difficult to win because, all the four teams are very strong. Algeria, which is the number one team in Africa must be disappointed for dropping points at home against Cameroon. They will come to Uyo very well prepared against us. So mathematically, it was a good operation for us that we won in Ndola; and we are the only teams that have three points after the first round of matches.
How have you been preparing for the November 12 clash?
The preparation has been to look at our players in their clubs because we cannot play any friendly match. We have to analyse the matches and we also have to keep eyes on our players because we have started building a new team with many young players. It was good we have two wins after two matches (Tanzania and Zambia), which is good for our confidence, but there is still a lot of work to do.